26/11 Case: Headley Claims He Told NIA About Ishrat Jahan

26/11 Case: Headley Claims He Told NIA About Ishrat Jahan
26/11 Case: Headley Claims He Told NIA About Ishrat Jahan

Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley today told a special court trying the 26/11 attack case that Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander Zaki-ur- Rehman Lakhvi had told him about the Ishrat Jehan 'operation' and wondered why NIA chose not to mention it in its statement.

During cross-examination by defence lawyer Wahab Khan on behalf of key accused Abu Jundal, Headley claimed he had told NIA that "a female member of LeT who had died in an encounter in India was Ishrat Jahan" but could not say why that was ignored by NIA.

Headley said LeT chief and 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed had told him prior to the Mumbai terror attacks that Shiv Sena Chief late Balasaheb Thackeray "needed to be taught a lesson".

The Lashkar terrorist had told Saeed that this would be done and might take six months to accomplish.

The cross-examination via video link of 55-year-old Headley, serving a 35 year prison term in the US, concluded today after four days of intense grilling.

Asked whether he had videographed the residence of India's Vice President during the surveillance done by him, he said only the outer walls of the building were videographed and it was en route from Sena Bhavan (Indian Army HQs) to National Defence College, New Delhi.

In another development, the judge G A Sanap rejected the plea of defence lawyer to defer the cross-examination as he had to meet the accused Abu Jundal in Mumbai Central Jail to seek instructions for further cross-examination of Headley. The court said Headley's deposition cannot be deferred on this ground.

The judge then directed the jail authorities to allow the lawyer to meet the accused for two hours in prison or communcate with him through video link in the court but as the lawyer did not accept this, the court rejected the plea.

Headley was discharged from cross-examination and soon thereafter, prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam moved an application for re-examination which was allowed by the court.

During re-examination by Nikam, Headley said he had referred to Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai while deposing earlier about his visit to a nuclear power plant to conduct surveillance for potential targets.

"I visited BARC on the recommendation of Major Iqbal (of Pakistan)", said Headley to Nikam.

Earlier, Headley told the defence lawyer that it was not correct to say that LeT wanted to assassinate former Pakistan President Pervez Musharaff. 

To a question, Headley denied that he had disclosed to MIA that he had hatched a plan to kill Musharaff along with his friends in LeT.

However, Headley claimed this had been incorrectly recorded in his statement given to NIA in July 2010.

Headley had said during examination by prosecution last month that there was a women's wing of LeT. However, during cross-examination, he stated that "defence is pre-supposing this."

Explaining this, Headley said, "I had no knowledge of women's wing that was for combat but there is a women's wing that takes care of women's issues and other social things.

To a query by the defence lawyer on the "social issues" taken up by the women's wing, Headley replied it takes care of religious education, widows and other such things.

Before the conclusion of deposition, Headley told the defence lawyer "Kaha Suna Maaf" (please excuse me for being upright).

Earlier, Headley went back on a part of his statement to NIA, saying that he did not tell the probe agency about Lakhvi informing him that "Ishrat Jahan module" was a "botched-up operation" and added that "these were my thoughts".

He also admitted that he had "no personal knowledge about Ishrat Jahan."

"When Lakhvi introduced Muzammil Bhat to me, he told me that he (Bhat) is one of the top LeT commanders and has done some operations like Akshardham temple, Ishrat Jahan etc... The rest were my thoughts... I came to know about Ishrat Jahan from media. These are my thoughts as to why Ishrat Jahan operation resulted in failure," Headley said.

"No, I did not say this to NIA and cannot assign any reason why it has been so recorded," he told Judge G A Sanap here.

Headley, who has turned approver in the 26/11 case, was anwering questions put to him by the defence lawyer via the video-link.

On whether NIA read out the statement to him, Headley said, "No" and added that the agency just took down the notes.

To a question, the Lashkar operative, who has been convicted in the US for his role in the 26/11 attacks, said neither he had requested the NIA for a copy of the statement nor did they provide it to him.

He said that this is for the first time that he was being shown his statement in the court. 

Headley said he told NIA that before Sajid Mir, Muzammil Bhat was the head of the group (LeT).

The Lashkar terrorist was then confronted with his own statement asking him why information about Bhat has not been recorded. To this, Headley said he cannot explain this.

He also claimed he had told NIA about an "unsuccessful operation near police post in India" but could not explain as to why it has not been recorded in his statement.

To a volley of questions, Headley clarified that he had informed NIA that "this woman (Jahan) was an Indian and a LeT operative" but could not explain why this was not recorded in his statement.

"It would be correct to say that I have no personal knowledge about Ishrat Jahan," he added.

Ishrat Jahan was killed along with three others in an alleged fake encounter in Gujarat in 2004.

Headley also said that he had told the agency that Muzammil's operations were all over in India but concentrated in Gujarat and Maharashtra.

"It is true that Lakhvi had introduced Muzammil to me in 2005," Headley said replying to a question.

However, he denied that Lakhvi had told him that Muzammil was a top LeT commander whose every project fails.

"Lakhvi did not tell me this and I also did not tell NIA about this," he said but failed to explain why this was reflected in his statement.

Headley told defence lawyer "it is baseless to say that I am trying to supress the role of my wife Shazia, brother Daniel and friend Saulat (Rana) in the 26/11 attacks in order to shield them".

He also denied that he had pleaded guilty in this case in US court to prevent arrest of his family members for their alleged role in the 26/11 attacks, forfeiture of property and imposition of fines.

To a question, Headley said he believed that India,Israel and US are enemies of Islam.


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